Canon has announced five new large format printers, though these are really just modest updates to the existing ImagePrograf Pro models. Strangely, Canon forgot to mention the names or any other useful information about these printers in its press release, which just for the record, are the 24ins Pro 2100, 44ins 4100 and 60ins 6100 – all with 12 colours – plus the eight-colour Pro 4100S and 6100S, respectively 44ins and 60ins wide.
Actually the new printers are very much like the old printers that they are replacing and which are only a couple of years old. They use the same printhead and the same inks and have exactly the same print quality so that there’s little point in any existing customers bothering with these new models.
Instead, Canon has looked at the media loading and has come up with quite an interesting system that can automatically load the paper as you feed it in, and can recognize that media. This appears to use some form of artificial intelligence as Canon says that it will become more accurate over time as it gets used to the more frequently used media. It also has a sensor that can measure how much media is on the roll, which could be handy if you re-load a roll that’s already half used and weren’t sure how much media was left to use.
Junichi Wachi, director of LFP at Canon Europe, says: “Print is about getting ideas down on paper. The faster and more easily you do it, the better. We’ve spent a lot of time talking to our large format customers about what slows the process down — what frustrates them. Complicated media handling tops the list. So streamlining the process was a design priority on the new ImagePrograf Pro printers, increasing profitability and boosting your bottom line. This is a great improvement especially for the Pro-4100S and Pro-6100S which have been designed with the high productivity print-for-pay market in mind.”
It doesn’t appear as if the existing machines can be retrofitted with this new loading system. On the other hand, it’s not particularly difficult to load any of those machines and anyone with a decent RIP is probably already able to squeeze the maximum productivity out of the printer. Instead the new features mostly seem to be aimed at amateur photographers since most professional users will know that a RIP also offers a lot of other functionality around media usage and colour management.
Canon has also included a new Professional Print & Layout software, which is capable of nesting images to optimise the amount of media used, which is another feature commonly found in RIP software. There is an argument here that these features will save users the cost of buying a RIP but I think that any serious users will still want to invest in a RIP, particularly if they are running multiple printers or any kind of workflow system.
Naturally Canon won’t mention the prices for these machines and there’s no further information on the Canon UK website at time of writing. Canon Europe’s website lists a telephone number for Canon UK’s press office, which turns out to actually be a number for the accounts department. The person that answered did offer me the correct number for the press office, but also suggested that the reason the website carries a different number is because nobody in the press office ever answers the phone. Honestly, how they manage to sell any printers is beyond me and I can only hope that the customer facing operation is better organized.
Separately, Canon has also announced that it’s changing the Océ trading name of its European subsidiary to Canon Production Printing. Frankly, I don’t think that Canon has managed to integrate Océ quite as well as it should have done. Océ has retained quite a distinctive identity within Canon and has kept its branding alive and well, even down to the colours of its kit. Canon even set up a separate Océ business unit in Australia less than two years ago.
Then again, I don’t think that there’s any real communication between the European and Japanese R&D teams, which often seem to be pulling in different directions. It’s going to take more than a simple change of name nine years after acquiring Océ to address these issues. But then, in my opinion, if the PR is anything to go by then it’s not the Océ part of the business that needs attention, at least here in Europe.